how pleasant, albert thought, as he exited the office, to encounter an actual human receptionist.
he smiled at her. thank you, you were very helpful.
you are welcome. do you think you could do me a favor?
just stop on the fourth floor and leave a message for dave, that cindy will be late for lunch, can you do that for me?
yes, i think i can handle that.
hello, i would like to leave -
do you have authorization to be on this floor, sir?
a few minutes ago i was just asked to leave -
do you have authorization to be on this floor, sir? if you do not, i must ask you to get back on the elevator and leave immediately.
well, jeeze louise, if you are going to be that way about it -
this conversation is over, sir, please turn around and get back on the elevator - now.
all right, all right, i’m leaving.
back down on the street, albert looked around and exhaled.
what was that all about, he wondered.
his phone rang in his pocket.
hi, this is cindy. did you leave that message for dave?
um, no, i am sorry , i wasn’t able -
so you didn’t leave the message?
no, i -
you stupid piece of human garbage! you had one thing to do, one thing, and you couldn’t do it !
i’m sorry -
go kill yourself, arbuthnot!
albert put his phone back in his pocket, but it rang again ten seconds later.
this is dave. is this the fulminating arbuthnot who could not give me cindy’s message?
look here, is this some kind of prank? am i being filmed to be on tik tok or something?
a prank? you will find out if this is a prank, and who you are dealing with, my good man!
you have not heard the last of us, not by a long shot. we won’t forgot this. you may think we have, but we never will. and we have connections.
and dave was gone.
albert stood on the street, looking around at the people walking unconcernedly in the sunshine, going about their business without a care in the world.
only fifteen minutes ago he had been one of them.
how long ago it seemed now.
now he was an outcast, lost and alone. dave had spoken of connections. did he, albert, dare go back to his own office? or to his own apartment?
of course, it would be madness to go to the so-called “authorities”.
his only hope was to run. but where to, and with what? his i d and credit cards would be useless, and he had not carried cash in years and had forgotten what cash looked like.
could he survive on the street? for one day or night?
he turned and started walking.